It’s not getting any easier for Hoppers

Hoppers will check on John Peterson ahead of tomorrow's game
Hoppers will check on John Peterson ahead of tomorrow's game
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Preston Grasshoppers face another tough challenge in National League Two North tomorrow when third-placed Chester visit Lightfoot Green tomorrow.

Hoppers’ trip to second-placed Hull Ionians proved a predictably stern test last Saturday as they went down to their fifth defeat in nine games, dropping them back to 11th in the table.

They are, however, only five points behind fourth-placed Otley.

Head coach Garth Dew said: “Chester are a good side, very well organised, and have a good defence.

“But I believe we can compete and beat any team in the league, and the message will be to continue working hard, learn from our mistakes.”

The Cheshire club lost their first two away fixtures but have won the next two, including a victory at Sedgley Park, where Hoppers went down narrowly last month.

They have also defeated leaders Ampthill and overall have won seven out of nine. Tomorrow, they bid for a sixth successive victory.

Chester did the double last season, 26-5 at home and 23-13 away, on their way to a fifth-place finish, six higher than Hoppers.

Preston will be making late fitness checks, particularly on prop John Peterson, with Oga Mabaya and Tom McGuinness on standby to join the squad as Dan Madden is not yet ready to return to the front row.

There is also likely to be a change on the left wing, with Sam Kendall in line for a recall.

It is a weekend off in North One West for Vale of Lune and Kendal, which at least gives fans the chance to catch the England/All Blacks game on TV.

In National League One, Fylde face their third North East opponents in three weeks.

After a draw at Darlington Mowden Park and a remarkable 14-man victory over Blaydon at Ansdell last Saturday, they now head to Tynedale, where they lost 26-7 last season after a 38-3 home win.

Tynedale are in ninth place. At home, they have won three and lost two, including a 19-53 thumping by Mowden Park last weekend.

They have collected just three bonus points, while Fylde have a league-best nine.

That has helped them to hold on to third place after seven wins, a draw and one defeat. They are unbeaten in their last five outings but have won only two on the road, with one draw and one defeat.

Fylde are without flanker Ben Vernon, banned for three weeks after his red card for a tip tackle against Blaydon, skipper Evan Stewart and front-five forward Simon Griffiths, who are unavailable, centre Chris Briers (ankle) and props Johnny Wild and Ben Corless, injured playing for the seconds last week.

Indeed coach Mark Nelson says his squad is “absolutely stretched”, with 23 members of the first and second-team squads injured or unavailable.

Sam Bedlow gets a start at centre and lock Gareth Rawlings returns after six games out, allowing Sam Beaumont to switch to the back row.

Hoppers (probable): Embelton; Baines, Russell, Ward, Kendall; Allen, Kindred; Peterson, Mills, Altham, Tomlinson, Murray, Napier, Lees. Taylor. Replacements: McGuinness, Tuff, Walker, Whyte, Hurst

Fylde: Spragg; Dorrington, Bedlow, S Rawlings, Brennand; Johnson, Nicholls; Birchall, Burtonwood, Lewis, Arnold, G Rawlings, Fairbrother, Beaumont, Goodman. Replacements: Andrews, Maher, Robinson, R Banks, Kenyon